The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that job openings were down in 15 states, and little changed in the other 35 on the last day of May. In Georgia, job openings were down 17,000, but job openings were up 6,000 in South Carolina. Job openings are one variable in the Augusta Leading Economic Index (LEI), and they have been trending down since February.
Fortunately, other components of the LEI have been trending up. Residential building permits were up 31 percent in May and have increased in four out of the last five months. Even better, are initial claims for unemployment insurance which have declined for six consecutive months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down on the last day in May, but we already know it finished up at the end of June. Inflation in the south has declined to 3.3%, just a tad above the national figure. I was a little surprised the Federal Reserve raised interest rates again last week, after pausing at their previous meeting. Inflation is heading in the right direction, and I would have held interest rates steady to give the economy a chance to catch up with the record-quick increases we have seen.
Overall, the Augusta LEI was up 0.8 percent in May on a 3-month moving average measure, and 1.0 percent on the single-month change. The Augusta LEI continues to suggest an improving local economy over the next 3 to 6 months.